Twenty years ago, the wall came a-tumblin’ down in Berlin. Bewildered East Berliners flowed into the west, marvelled at the material delights, then returned to their drab homes. About a year later, in the greatest act of single-sourcing in history, East and West Germany were merged into a single entity.
I was lucky enough to have seen the wall only three years earlier, in 1986. Berlin was one of the many stops of my grand tour of Europe: 22 countries in 60 days. I remember scrambling to the top of an observational platform near the wall. I, along with about 20 other insane college students, crammed together at the top, where we could easily see over to the other side. We saw the wall on our side, a “no-man’s land” strip about 300 feet wide, and finally the wall on the East German side, where East German soldiers laughed at our packed-together motley crew.
If you had told me that three years later these walls would be gone, I would have said: “Yeah, right. And someday all the world’s computers will be magically connected, everyone will have their own portable phone, and you’ll be able to buy TVs 3″ thick and 52″ in diameter. Like that’s ever gonna happen…”
Many people don’t realize the two walls ran not only through a city but through the entire country. I wonder what happened to all the concrete? It would have been tough to recycle it.
Off the Wall
We must be thankful to live a country that has no walls to imprison its people. (Except for the ones in jail, of course.) However, there all walls of other sorts. The walls that wreak havoc in our profession are the ones blocking the free flow of information. Companies build virtual walls (or silos) around their various departments, resulting in misinformation, disinformation, inconsistent information, little information or no information being circulated amongst the employees.
In software companies, a business unit for a specific product can be comprised of developers, QA testers, marketers, salespeople, trainers, technical writers and product managers. How often do these people communicate with each other and share information? If they’re not communicating, they are building – building the wall.
So I say to these workers, and to the company presidents, vice-presidents, CEOs, and managers at all levels: